v. swayed, sway·ing, sways
1. To swing back and forth or to and fro. See Synonyms at swing.
2. To incline or bend to one side; veer: She swayed and put out a hand to steady herself.
a. To incline toward change, as in opinion or feeling: He swayed toward trying out for the chorus.
b. To fluctuate, as in outlook.
1. To cause to swing back and forth or to and fro: The breeze swayed the wheat.
2. To cause to incline or bend: The wind swayed the trees toward the house.
3. To exert influence or control over: His speech swayed the voters.
4. Nautical To hoist (a mast or yard) into position.
a. To rule or govern.
b. To wield, as a weapon or scepter.
1. The act of moving from side to side with a swinging motion.
2. Influence or control: The mayor has a lot of sway in our town.
[Middle English sweien, probably of Scandinavian origin.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.